Monlam Tharchin wrote:How is one to determine any of those qualities?
Hi Monlam Tharchin,
It is not easy to identify a capable and trustworthy teacher in the Buddhist world, any more than one can find a capable and trustworthy doctor, employee, car mechanic or spouse to marry in the day to day world ... ... and, in fact, some of the same advice applies to all in various ways:
It is helpful to look at credentials, history, what they have written and how it resonates for you, the larger Sanghas and organizations they belong to, who trained and authorized them (their teacher), their reputation among their long time students, that their ethical record is free of reports of any problems, how long they have been active, and the like. Is their anything about them that makes them seem insincere or doubtful (like the sometime teachers who, like people in other callings, sometimes fake their credentials or have rumors of mistreatment of students circulated about them). Talking to people who are part of their Sangha, seem down to earth and not dreamy eyed folks who "drunk the coolaide", and who give a balanced and realistic assessment is perhaps the best way to go. If there are many reports that the teacher has been effective with many folks, good chance he or she is a good teacher!
Finally, one has to dive in, try them out and give it some time. Go with your gut about whether there is resonance and the relationship seems healhy, helpful and right. Unfortunately, that may take a bit of time, but give it a few weeks or months, and the benefit of the doubt.
I would also say not to have dreamy, idealized or stereotyped images of what a good teacher should be. Sometimes the fellow who seems human, or has a few small blemishes is the best teacher. We learn sometimes from their foibles and human side (I am not talking about someone who is, for example, truly prone to bad behavior, but just someone who seems human). The fellow who seems too much trying to project a stereotyped image of mystical perfection may be anything but.
Anyway, that is the best that any of us can do. Oh, and follow your heart! Luck and good Karmic connections (as they say old school) helps too.
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org